Emily Ann Roberts Talks New Album, Famed Co-Writers, and Playing “Jacked-Up Appalachian Music”

Hundreds of contestants from The Voice have faded into obscurity, at best capitalizing on their momentary fame to play at county fairs or in often-empty casino bars. But Emily Ann Roberts seems to be on the road to bigger and better things with some big-time associations on her upcoming album, Can’t Hide Country.

The runner-up on season nine of The Voice as a member of Blake Shelton’s team, Roberts subsequently placed songs on the Billboard Hot Country and Hot Christian charts. “I was on The Voice back in 2015 when I was just still a sophomore in high school,” she said. “I learned a lot about the music business real quick. As far as I knew, it was just about playing in a little local Mexican restaurant on the weekends for tips. But I learned a lot, and I got to work with Blake and came in second place, and that’s how I got to work with my management team at Starstruck in Nashville.”  

Due out September 22nd, Can’t Hide Country was produced by artist/writer/producer Trent Willmon (Montgomery Gentry, Granger Smith). “Trent and I met in 2021,” Roberts said. “He was working where my Starstruck management is and they have studios there, and Trent was recording with Cody Johnson. My team there thought he would be a great fit. So we’ve been working together ever since. We had our first session over a year ago and we finished the album up this year and I’m so proud of it, and I’m honored that he’s my producer. He’s just a genius and an incredible man.”

Willmon was also instrumental in creating the material, arranging and taking part in co-writes with Roberts and some legendary Nashville writers. “The day after I met Trent,” she said, “he invited me to come and write with him and Jeremy Spillman (Brantley Gilbert, Jon Pardi), they go way back. I was writing with them the next day, that’s how much Trent believed in me. A lot of folks in the music business talk the big talk, but it’s very rare that somebody will put some action behind what they’re promising you. And we wrote the song ‘Whole Lotta Little’ that day. Then Trent connected me with Paul Overstreet (Alison Krauss, Kenny Chesney) and the three of us got together to write.”

Other writers on the album include Reba McEntire’s niece Autumn McEntire, and veteran Nashville songcrafter Jerry Salley (Toby Keith, Steven Curtis Chapman). “I was connected with Jerry through some friends in the bluegrass community,” Roberts said, “and we’ve been writing together for probably four years now.” The album also includes a recording of Salley’s and Phillip White’s (George Strait, Luke Bryan) song “Still Searching,” with guest vocals by Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill.

Though Roberts has obvious bluegrass and Gospel influences, she says that what she plays is really “jacked-up Appalachian music. Growing up in East Tennessee, I was really influenced by mountain music, but I would never say that I’m bluegrass, because I’m country through and through. It’s so hard to put a pin on what country music is these days. But when people listen to this album they’re going to know that it’s country music, and when we started recording it, that was something I was adamant about from the git-go.”

You can follow Roberts at emilyannroberts.com.

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